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Aishwarya Rai Bachchan,
The Kapoor family are very rich Indians who live in India and want their eldest daughter, a girl named Sanjana, to get married to an American-Indian businessman named Prem. Prem is welcomed, and after a few misunderstandings, both Sanjana and Prem fall in love with each other. Then chaos descends upon the Kapoor family when they find out that the boy named Prem is a fake, and that the real Prem was delayed and is now reaching India. How will this news affect Sanjana, who has given her heart to the fake Prem? Written by
Sumitra (corrected by Carrie)
Time marches on inexorably; the latest example of this truism comes in the form of Rajshri Productions' newest release, `Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon'. Under the Rajshri banner, the Barjatya clan has been dishing out family fare for well over thirty years: melodramatic tearjerkers, chaste love stories, moralistic family dramas that were sensitive and inoffensive, if overly simple. With the arrival of Sooraj Barjatya, the clan's output took on a veneer of modernity that imparted a certain slickness to their somewhat regressive `family values' agenda and also introduced a new element: cheesiness.
`Maine Pyaar Kiya', Sooraj's directorial debut, was loud, kitschy, and launched a new romantic pair with great fanfare: Salman Khan finally had a starring vehicle, and a starlet from Indian TV, Bhagyashree, was catapulted onto the big screen. Though there was much to crib about in this film, it had a bizarre, anachronistic charm, as well. Everyone, other than the villains, was sweet enough to bring on a major case of diabetes, especially the heroine. The characters were mono-dimensional, the hoary plot simple in the extreme, but what saved the film was that its lead pair truly was young and looked genuinely lovelorn. What appealed to me was that the film kept scrupulously to all the age-old conventions of Hindi cinema; though it was made in the late eighties, it could easily have been passed off as a product of the 'forties or 'fifties. The public adored it and the Barjatyas made a ton of money. Salman parlayed the success of this film into a booming career, but Bhagyashree foolishly stipulated that she would only appear in films with her supremely untalented husband and soon vanished never to be heard from again.
Sooraj Barjatya then went on to make variations on this theme in the form of `Hum Aap Ke Hai Kaun', which I found insufferable (and interminable!) despite the presence of a gorgeous Madhuri Dixit, and `Hum Saath Saath Hain', which was just as dreadful, but had a pleasing pair in Saif Ali Khan and Karishma Kapoor. The millions in India, however, loved these films, and the Barjatyas once again laughed all the way to the bank.
Now, with `Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon', Sooraj Barjatya displays a brand new awareness of the changing times. Somebody has recently clued him in about the birds and the bees; thus, though there is love galore (beginning with the title of the film), there is also a fiery exhibition of raging hormones and the unmistakable frisson of sex! Mind you, the heroine still remains chaste, but now she actually lets the hero kiss her and the screen steams up with this novel willingness to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. Kareena Kapoor plays Sanjana, a maiden who is winsome, sexy in a wholesome mango-lassi-and-kulfi kind of way, and of course, the apple of everyone's eye. She has a noble but browbeaten father, and a beady-eyed mother who, the minute Sanjana completes college, starts scouring the world for a suitable moneybags husband for her darling daughter. The three of them reside in a town called Sundernagar.
Sundernagar merits a paragraph of its own, so unusual and geographically baffling is it! Within its city limits are gently undulating Alpine slopes so that the family can go on healthy bicycle jaunts, snow-covered peaks and daring ski runs for the hero to demonstrate his snowboarding prowess, pristine white sand beaches and clear blue oceans filled with myriad tropical fish, existing, once again, merely for the hero to exhibit that he has well-developed amphibian skills, as well. Sundernagar boasts of an entire spectrum of ethnicities living harmoniously together, for kindly white helicopter pilots take the lead pair bungee-jumping, the florist shops are similarly staffed by Caucasians, the local college with plump brown nuns, while the family's retainers are decidedly from some unnamed village in Bihar. The gospel of the Spice Girls has somehow made it to this geographical and anthropological marvel, for the college has a girl-power themed musical show, complete with mini-skirted, pom-pom wielding cheerleaders, a phenomenon that was unknown in Indian cinema until the advent of Karan Johar's `Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'. Sanjana, our leading lady, even has four best friends who are the Hindi-movie equivalent of the now-defunct Spice Girls.
When Sanjana's parents get an e-mail from their older married daughter, who lives somewhere in the USA, announcing the imminent arrival of an almost impossibly eligible bachelor in Sundernagar, they make tracks for the local airport, find a young man named Prem (Hrithik Roshan) there and promptly bring him home. They do everything, short of hurling Sanjana at him, to let him know that he'd be more than welcome to take their daughter out. Of course, it being springtime, the young couple's hormones run amok and they fall in love and a kind of prim-and-proper lust. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom (once again, I scratched my head and tried in vain to figure out the coordinates of Sundernagar), so it's the perfect season to sing duets, which they do under the gentle voyeuristic gaze of the ubiquitous desi (local) Spice Girls. Prem (Hrithik) finds every pretext to shed his shirt, while Sanjana swoons ecstatically at the sight of all those manly muscles.
Alas, the family has goofed up in a major way. Another e-mail arrives which informs them that they've brought the wrong Prem home, so much to the distress of our leading lady, her beady-eyed mother loses no time in turfing the ineligible Prem. Mummy also pragmatically suggests that her daughter speedily transfer her affections to the correct young man. The real moneybags Prem (Abhishek Bachchan) shows up with a glamorously attired mother in tow, and, in short order, falls in love with Sanjana. Of course, he is the antithesis of the gregarious, well-muscled Prem, so what's a young leading lady to do? Sanjana sheds many pretty tears and sings sad songs, none of which have any effect on her determinedly upwardly-mobile mother. How does it all end? Does this terribly sad mess get sorted out at all?
I must stop my narrative here, or there won't be any reason for you to see the film and further fill Sooraj Barjatya's coffers. This movie, like all its recent Rajshri predecessors, is strident, trashy, with a few absolutely hideous elements like a CGI talking parrot and cocker spaniel, but strangely fascinating nevertheless. The three leads are nice to look at and take all this nonsense very seriously, so we too end up buying into it. Kareena is a polished performer, a well-schooled practitioner of the guiles and wiles of a Hindi-film leading lady. Her suitors in this film acquit themselves well too, with Hrithik chewing the scenery (and nibbling on Sanjana in equal measure) as the flamboyant extrovert Prem, and Abhishek managing to hold on to his dignity as the pensive introvert Prem. None of the supporting performers merit special mention, but I did like Reema Lagoo's glamorous new look. See this movie at your own risk, and millions, no doubt, will to give the Barjatyas yet another blockbuster.
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